In the past month, 30 states have declared cannabis an “essential service”. Quite suddenly the value of the American cannabis industry has been recognized and recast as a civic institution in this time of crisis.
This is a huge responsibility. The millions of people currently enrolled in those states’ medical programs need support more than ever as hospital systems are overwhelmed with Covid-19. Additionally, we now have a new set of consumers turning to plant medicine to help deal therapeutically with anxiety, sleep and pain issues compounded by financial loss, social isolation, and new caretaking responsibilities.
But the cannabis community is up to the task. We are no strangers to adversity, or to the primacy of getting the plant to patient populations — it was, after all, the cannabis cooperatives that rallied to serve AIDS, cancer, and epilepsy patients in the early days of Reagan’s “Just Say No” demonization.
So it’s no surprise that each day I see our people on the front lines in their communities making “good news” and modeling stewardship and ingenuity in the following ways:
- Budtenders, inventory, and compliance professionals as well as growers, trimmers, extractors and others in the manufacturing supply chain are working long hours with skeleton crews to keep up with soaring consumer demand. Deep gratitude for HR people and Owner/Operators who are sacrificing their own safety to protect their patients and their teams.
- Retailers have innovated on- the- fly drive- through, online ordering and delivery services to keep up with heavy patient flow and meet criteria for “shelter in place” rules. Cannabis operators are used to working scrappy and solving problems.
- Shops are running deep discounts and deals for patients dealing with income loss, affirming the industry’s core commitment to people over profit.
- Recreational licensees in Massachusetts who have been shuttered by Governor Baker’s decree are using the downtime to manufacture hand sanitizer. Several companies in California are doing the same, as well as running food banks, donating a portion of their profits, and other samaritan activities.
This goodwill comes despite the reality that many cannabis businesses are still not profitable, contending with a combination of regulatory and taxation challenges, a lack of funding in the capital markets, and a thriving black market. It is especially notable considering that due to cannabis’ Schedule I designation, cannabis businesses are not eligible to receive any federal money under the CARES Act or the Paycheck Protection Program.
The hopeful promise of this painful moment is that it will turn the tide for cannabis legalization. This means speeding up passage of The STATES Act and ultimately bringing an end to federal prohibition. As we saw in the Great Depression with the end of alcohol prohibition, states are going to be looking for the kinds of jobs and tax revenue we know our industry can provide.
As the Director of Client Services at FlowerHire, I am seeing this in real time. While the country is showing record unemployment claims, we are still busy hiring for scaling cannabis operators— we placed 5 new employees last week in 3 states for companies needing Ops/ Compliance, Sales, Finance and Cultivation experts to help lead through the crisis.
This is our opportunity to redefine our image in the eyes of the American public, and have the cannabis community be seen for the brave and innovative healers, scientists, and community health leaders we are, and have always been.